December 18, 2023
DHAKA – Despite a series of hectic meetings, repeated assurances, intense negotiations and nail-biting calculations, Awami League seems to have failed to satisfy its allies and electoral partners and, in many cases, even its own ranks.
To keep the allies in its fold, AL decided to share six seats with the 14-party alliance partners. It also withdrew 25 of its own nominees from the race to allow Jatiya Party an easy win there.
But both JP and 14-party allies vented frustration at the AL’s tight-fistedness, as their demands were not fully met.
Besides them, many ruling party-sponsored candidates said they are unhappy over the party decision to keep the party “independents” in the race, many of whom are sitting MPs.
The six AL candidates, all sitting MPs, who had to “sacrifice” their election bid as part of the seat-searing deal with 14-party allies are disappointed too. They think their much-coveted candidacy has been “snatched” from them at the last minute.
The six constituencies are — Kurigram-1, Gaibandha- 2, Patuakhali-1, Dhaka-18, Brahmanbaria-2 and Chhatogram-8.
With the six, AL has now dropped 77 sitting MPs from the January 7 election race. Seventy-one were excluded when the party declared its nominees for 298 constituencies.
In the last election, AL left 11 seats for its 14-party allies and 26 for JP. There were no AL candidates in those seats either, essentially giving them a walkover.
Apart from Jatiya Party and three of its 14-party coalition partners — Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Jatiya Party (Manju) — AL did not share any seats with any other allies and partners this time, much to their frustration.
Even the parties with whom AL had an “understanding” over seat-sharing are dismayed as the ruling party did not meet their demand.
Jatiya Party, which agreed to join the polls at the eleventh hour after a lot of dramas, is upset with AL giving up fewer seats and disagreeing to pull out its independents from those seats.
JP demanded 70 seats as part of seat-sharing and withdrawal of AL candidates from 29 seats.
Allies in the 14-party also repeatedly requested AL to withdraw its “independents” from the seats to be shared with them, as they sought a guarantee for victory from the AL. The ruling party did not agree, upsetting the partners.
“We are extremely unhappy over Awami League’s decision on seat-sharing. The party didn’t keep its word,” Workers Party Politburo Member Anisur Rahman Mollik told The Daily Star yesterday.
Workers Party, a key partner in the AL-led 14-party alliance, yesterday got two seats, although AL promised three.
“Awami League dropped one of our sitting MPs on its own, without even talking to us,” Anisur said.
The two seats it got are — Barishal-2 for party chief Rashed Khan Menon and Rajshahi-2 for party General Secretary Fazley Hossain Badsha. Workers Party’s sitting MP Mostofa Lutfullah from Satkhira-1 has been dropped, contrary to AL’s previous announcement.
AL initially decided to share Barishal-3 for Menon, sitting MP from Dhaka-8. But later, he was offered Barishal -2 constituency – a result of negotiation with Jatiya Party.
AL shared three seats with JSD, leaving party General Secretary Shirin Akter, sitting MP from Feni-1. JSD demanded six seats.
JSD President Hasanul Haq Inu repeatedly demanded withdrawal of AL “independents” along with AL-sponsored candidates, but AL did not do so.
An aggrieved Inu on Friday slammed the ruling party for neglecting its allies in “good times”.
“It is suicidal to forge an alliance during crisis and neglect them later out of the complacency of getting out of danger. Among the pro-liberation forces, the giants should avoid arrogance, and the miniatures inferiority,” he told a discussion.
AL had also assured Tarikat Federation of sharing a seat for its Chairman Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari, sitting MP from Chattogram-2. The ruling party did not honour its pledge, making Tarikat unhappy.
AL did not even hold any discussion with its electoral partners Bikalpodhara Bangladesh and Zaker Party. In the 2018 election, Bikalpodhara got three seats and won in two.
Zaker Party, which fielded candidates in 218 constituencies this time, withdrew from over 210.
Besides the allies and partners, AL’s own candidates are aggrieved in many areas as they will face a tough challenge from their party colleagues.
Of the 71 sitting MPs who did not make it to the nomination list, at least 27 are running as “independents”. Besides, around 300 AL “independents” are pitted against their party nominees in 231 constituencies.
Most AL nominees will be challenged by AL “independents”, save for in 32 constituencies that are being sought by party heavyweights.
After yesterday’s decision, AL candidates will run from 263 seats.
Five AL-nominated candidates — Abdus Salam from Mymensingh-9, Nasirul Islam Khan from Kishoreganj-3, Shamim Haque from Faridpur-3, Enamul Haque Babul from Jashore-4 and Shammi Ahmed from Barishal-4 — lost candidacy on different grounds.